Who was Evita?
It may be fitting that Eva Duarte reached the pinnacle of her acting career as a radio soap opera star. Certainly the rest of her life after marrying soon to be president Juan Peron, would read like a script full of dramatic cliches. She rose to the top of the Argentine elite, only to die a short while later from cancer. Much of Eva's life is still a mystery, and in Evita even the fine print credits admit no resemblance to reality.
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber have taken the few existing facts of Eva Peron's life and created a character that begs to be played by someone that clawed her way to the top of the media heap. Someone who has no regard for morals or values. Someone who would do anything to create a stir. Anyone got Madonna's number?
Madonna, as Evita, does a superb job playing the role given her. Having trained her voice for this specific part, she comes across with a clarity and presence that is almost too believable, leaving audiences confused as to just who's life we are examining. But maybe it doesn't matter because this is a story and could fit any individual who has conquered her humble beginnings and justified whatever means she had to use with her ambitious visions of what the ends would be.
In the movie, Evita secures her husband's political power by coddling the working poor with uplifting speeches full of impossible promises. As I watched, even I began to buy into her good intentions, forgetting the hypocrisies between her grand orations and her real actions. This discovery is what makes Evita worth watching for parents and their older teens. It is a poignant reminder of the dangers of believing in appearance and flattery over character and sincerity in our heros.
As for the real Eva Peron, like so many other "biographical" movies, we must be careful to help our children (and ourselves) recognize the subtle way years of history can be rewritten in two short hours.